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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Border Security Shadows Immigration Reform


Immigration reform is back in the center of U.S. politics. But so is border security.
Like a miracle, the November election resurrected bipartisan consensus for immigration reform. Support for some type of immigration reform, whether comprehensive or piecemeal, spans nearly the entire political spectrum in post-election America -- in large part because of dramatically increasing political participation of Latinos, Asians, and other immigrant-based communities.
Advocacy for immigration reform is breaking into various camps – from those only supporting an expansion of guest-worker programs to those who insist on comprehensive immigration reform. All camps agree that border security is the necessary foundation for immigration reform.
When speaking about the new prospects for immigration reform after his reelection, President Obama made the now required nod to border security. It’s rare to hear any politician or reform advocate speak favorably of immigration reform without the apparently requisite bow to border security.
In U.S. political and advocacy communities, strong support for massive border security spending (or increased funding) constitutes a common ground. Virtually all regard border security as a precondition for immigration reform.
Yet for all the enthusiastic support for increased border security – whether as nationalist response, a tactic to achieve immigration reform, or because of anti-immigration or pro-drug control convictions – there is no common understanding of what border security actually means.
The Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Border Patrol aren’t much help in defining or assessing border security.
About the closest they come to defining border security is declaring their commitment to “secure the border” against the entry of “dangerous people and goods.” This more militaristic and threat-laden phrasing that pushed aside the pre-9/11 language of “border control” and about blocking flows of illegal aliens and illegal drugs. 
The ambiguity and expansiveness of the new border security mission is paralleled by the Border Patrol’s apparent inability to evaluate the threats and risks to border security and to assess the degree to which the border is secure.
(to be continued)

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